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Friday, December 15, 2017

More Fun Than a Barrel Full of Monkeys: The Capuchins of Costa Rica


Catch up on our previous chapters here:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

One more item on the agenda for our Costa Rican adventure. We want to see some monkeys.



Down the beach from our hotel, the Riu Palace, there's a little jungle bar called the Monkey Bar.  The local monkeys come down from the trees at sunset to beg from the tourists gathered there.

We tried to get down the beach to it but, at a certain point, the sand just gets too deep and soft for the wheelchair.

Letty talks to a security guard at the hotel and he tells her not to bother...just go to the trees along the south side of the hotel and you can see monkeys there too. It's also hard-packed enough that we can get Tim and his wheelchair to.


Watch the Video!



Armed with a couple of bananas from the buffet, we head over in the late afternoon to see what we can find.

Beyond the entrepreneurial massage tables, trinket stands, and enterprising banana salesmen that congregate right on the other side of the Riu property line, it's a short walk into the trees and jungle. We notice that the 100 feet or so from the beach into the forest also means a temperature spike of another 20 degrees.

It's hot in here.



A few people have come before us so we join them in admiring and tempting the little capuchins that scamper among the branches.



Some are timid, some are a little more brave and will guardedly snatch a banana out of your hand, and one was downright mean.  He took the banana offered but growled at me and slapped my hand as hard as he could when taking the free food.



And there we have it, we've completed our goals of coming to Costa Rica...lazing in the pool and on the beach, wandering out into the countryside to experience regular Tican life, adventure touring (zip lining on a volcano), and now interacting with the local wildlife.

It's been a grand time, we'll spend the rest of our time with the drunk Canadians ("we was hammered, eh!") we've made friends with in the pool before heading out to the airport in the morning. 

We'll update you on that in our final post.

Darryl
Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

CAREGIVER CHRONICLES: Navigating the Route from Childhood to Adulthood - Parents Edition


We are not only primary caregivers for Tim but also his parents. This has been a path of growth for both of us over the three decades we've been together and it is not always easy to let go of being a parent and transitioning over to letting him be an adult.

I imagine it might be easier if your child is able-bodied and able to do things for themselves. They can get a job, move out, start a family...but that is not how it is for us.

It's a precarious balance. On the one hand, we have to provide care for Tim's needs. We have to protect him, and I mean that literally, as he can't really fend for himself without being watched over such as being out in traffic, getting stuck somewhere without help for feeding or bathrooming, even just getting his chair stuck in a rut...someone's pretty much always got to be with him to keep him out of trouble or from getting into it.



On the other hand, we need to let Tim grow up and be an adult. He's intelligent and able to make decisions for himself. We have avoided the 'conservator' or 'legal guardian' route because he is of age and has the mental capacity to think and reason his way around things.

Since Tim graduated from college and reached adulthood, I've been striving to treat him as an adult, to let him know he's an adult, and to know that I am no longer in the role of raising him to adulthood. Yet, we live together and out of necessity have a very close working relationship with each other.

As you can imagine, sometimes that leads to frustration and one of the other of us losing our patience with each other. Tim may lash out at something and, out of habit and frustration, I will slip back into parent mode and snap back.

It's not something I'm proud of and we have both been working on it for awhile now.

While I strive to clamp off my parental instincts, it's not always that easy but I do work hard to see him as an adult and treat him as one.  I also remind others sometimes that, yes, Tim is an adult and you need to see him that way too.

Independence is another big hurdle for us. At this point, we know that Tim will never be fully independent. Even without us, someone will always have to be there to provide care for him. That being said, we still strive to get him to be independent as possible. Try to get him to go out by himself to see a movie or other excursion; let him be alone in the house for a bit while we go to the store...things like that.

Those periods of independence work out pretty good but we've still got to remember the five hour rule...Tim can only go so long before those needs that need caring for bubble back up to the surface.

Another thing I try to do is not hide anything or sugar coat things from him. We've talked about the inevitable mortality of my wife and I and what he'll need to do at that time. We've worked with him on achieving a financial literacy so that he will be able to manage his money once we're not around anymore. What he needs to do in an emergency. I've even trained him on how to get out of the house by himself if there's an emergency and we're not there to do it for him.

At the same time, we do try to provide a loving and caring environment for him. He knows that he's welcome to stay with us forever and we'll be his caregivers for as long as it's physically possible. He knows that we love him and that we see him as a valued family member, not a burden.



And, yes, sometimes we'll snap under the pressure but that we'll take a breather and talk it out until we reach a resolution. We'll admit our mistakes, and work on ways to try to remember...we're all adults here.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tim of the Jungle...Watch Out For That Tree! (Accessible Zip Lining in Costa Rica)


Need to catch up? Read our previous Costa Rica posts...part 1, part 2, and part 3.


Our hotel is on the beach. This is a beach vacation. All our activities were supposed to take place on or near the ocean.


This was the task at hand when planning our trip and I was researching things we could do on the water.



Watch the Video!




While looking in vain for a boat that could take us on the ocean,  and maybe even go snorkeling, I came across a video on Youtube of a guy in a wheelchair zip lining in Costa Rica.


I knew my timid son would never go for that but, just for kicks, I went over to the living room.


"Hey Tim, guess what?"


"What?


"I found a video on Youtube that shows a guy in a wheelchair zip lining."


Before I could say anything more, the reply came back immediately "Sign me up!"


A few e-mails back and forth to Erick Zalaya, owner of Volcano Lake Adventures in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, and we'd set a date.


Twenty years ago, the three of us went to Maui and drove the road to Hana. Today, this three hour drive over mountains covered with thick jungles reminds of of that trip with its narrow roads and dozens of one-lane bridges.


Finally, we break through to see Lake Arenal.  Once across the dam, it's just a few more miles to the busy but little town of La Fortuna.




Volcano Lake Adventures is located off the lobby of the Hotel Central Lofts in the middle of town. The parking lot is being repaved today so I park around the corner and leave Letty and Tim in the car while I go check in.


I meet Erick and he tells me he'll call the zip line park. At first, it's 1:30 then it's a no-go. 


"They're booked."


"I though you booked us when I e-mailed you six weeks ago and confirmed it last week?"


"Let me call another place that does it, is there anything else you'd like to do if you can't go zip lining?"


"No, I emailed you six weeks ago before we flew the 3,000 miles here and drove the three hours this morning to get here. I thought we had an iron-clad reservation to go zip lining. That was the only thing it seemed we could do."


Luckily, his plan B came through and, with voucher in hand, we drove over to Ecoglide Adventure Park just outside of town.


We arrive at the office about a half hour before our new appointed time of 12:30. The guy in the office tells us it's 3:00. I tell him what Mr. Zalaya said.  


"My guys are out to lunch, you'll have to wait until they're through."




No problem, we brought a lunch and the gardens at Ecoglide are a pleasant place to have a picnic.


1:00, the tour guides show up. There's Armando, Eduardo, Alfredo and Warren. We make introductions and they proceed to gear-up my wife and I with all the safety equipment we would need. It is cinched up very tight all around, let's just say it's a good thing my child producing years are behind me or this would put a big crimp in that plan.




In a nearby clearing, there's a zip line strung up between two poles where we learn the ropes...no pun intended...of zip lining.  We're shown how to regulate our speed with the thick, padded glove on one hand and how to hold on to the ropes on the other hand.  Once that's done, we take a test glide on the training line in the clearing.


Next, they put Tim into the front seat of a large, four wheel drive truck while the rest of us ride in the bed. We're driven up a rough, jungle road up to 2500 feet on the Arenal Volacano and hike the last couple of hundred feet up to the first platform.


And Tim? How does he get up here? Well, notice I said "handicapped accessible" not wheelchair accessible. One of the crew, Warren, is called "la mula" by his mates.  He's a big, strong man and carries Tim on his back, piggy back style, to the first platform. A plastic patio chair is brought along to set Tim on between platforms to give him and Warren a little break.




It's quite a bit of hooking up, clipping onto lines, and making sure we're ready. Warren is not only Tim's mule but his zip lining companion, too, and helps Tim fly through the trees with the greatest of ease.


Soon, him and Warren are a couple of lines ahead of us on this 12 line, approximately 2 miles course down the volcano.



Letty and I follow behind, on our own with no companions, and it's a glorious sight, skimming the treetops through the jungle, with miles of views across the Arenal valley.


About halfway through, we take a break and are given an opportunity to take a ride on the Tarzan Swing, which is kind of like a bungie jump but is instead a giant rope swing where you jump off a cliff and trust the the rope will hold and swing you high into the trees safely.




Of course I'm doing it. Scared the crap out of me, too.


Letty passes and, since he'd have to go on unaided, I advise that Tim take a pass on it too. Wisely and with rarity, he takes my advice.




The last few lines take us to a platform very high into a ceiba tree and on to another line that's half a kilometer long.


Finally, a rather tame last line takes us back to the visitor's center.


It's a blast and Tim has said this was his biggest highlight of the trip. It's a fantastic day that, unfortunately, does not leave us any time to do any other adventures while we're in the area.




It's a long, windy road back so we stop to get a couple of strong cups of Costa Rican coffee for the ride home.


Click on the links, above, if you'd like to take advantage of this very unique opportunity while you're in Costa Rica. You'll thank me later.


Links:
Ecoglide  - http://arenalecoglide.com/en/
Volcano Lake Adventureshttp://volcanolakeadventures.com/en/home/

Darryl
Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick - Copyriht 2016
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 10, 2017

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Lounge 24, Riu's Do-It-Yourself Bar in Costa Rica


I think I count six bars at the Riu Palace in Costa Rica. There may be a couple more but there's definitely not any less. Plus, guests of the Palace also have full bar privileges at the Riu Guanacaste next door. 

You don't have to walk far to get your buzz on, that's for sure.


Watch the Video!



One of the unique bars is Lounge 24, at the back of the lobby behind the coffee and pastry bar.  It gets its name by being open and available to guests 24 hours a day. Feel like a nacho and beer craving at 3 in the morning? This is your place.

A fairly good selection of quality snacks and bar food line the back wall. It's definitely a step up from the all-night offerings of the last Riu we stayed at in the Dominican Republic. For drinks though? You're on your own.

That's not a bad thing, it's just what makes Lounge 24 unique...all the liquor and fixings are there for you to make whatever you want.

Think the lobby bartender is making your mai tai too weak? Make it as strong as you want here.  It's a nice break and even makes a good arts 'n crafts activity for those who want to play with a little mixology.

Watch in the video above as Tim and I demonstrate how to make a mai tai in this little DIY bar off the lobby of the Riu Palace in Costa Rica.  As an aside, after we finished, the other people in the bar watching us film the video, had me make mai tais for the whole group.  For the rest of the week, wherever we went in the resort, when one of those guests would see me, I'd get a greeting "hey, Mai Tai Man!"

Darryl
Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 8, 2017

Costa Rica Touring - Liberia, Guanacaste


Missed a post on Costa Rica? Click on these links to catch up, part 1 and part 2.

Even though we were ripped off a bit and had quite a row at the rental agency, we still ended up with a car so let’s get in and go for a drive. The big city here in Guanacaste is Liberia, where we flew into, so we head in that direction.


Watch the Video!


Driving in this country is quite an adventure as we find out. A good portion of the drivers will pass you at any moment and in any traffic condition. Another large portion will drive exceedingly slow and will never, ever pull over. You soon learn that passing is a very necessary part of driving here in Costa Rica and passing lanes are pretty much nonexistent.

Add to that all the pedestrians, bicyclists, and animals that can be in the middle of the road at any given time, and you have your work cut out for you. In cities and towns, all the above turns into a free-for-all.


We make it into Liberia and find a place to park near the town’s plaza. The local church presides over it all…an ugly one, according to my wife…and it’s fiesta weekend.


Not much too festive in the daytime though. A few booths are open selling chicken and rice or dessert. We opt for dessert with some fritters covered in caramel and condensed milk and some churros.


It’s hot, quiet, and a few kids hit us up to buy a t-shirt or just to beg for money.


Walking around the perimeter of the park, I notice about 1 out of every 5 taxis are wheelchair accessible. One driver lets me take a picture of his for posterity.

We also notice that every public transit bus we see has a wheelchair lift and a spot to tie down a wheelchair making this the most accessible Latin American country we’ve seen for transportation.

The town’s a bit down in the mouth and sleepy in this humid heat so we move on.  We program the GPS unit in our rental car to take us to the nearby Rincon Vieja volcano but soon the pavement runs out and we’re on a very bumpy dirt road. When the Garmin says “drive 22 kilometers on this road,” we give up and look for a new plan.

On the map, it says there’s a zoo in nearby Salto. We head that direction.

In Liberia, we switch to Ruta 1, which turns out to be a modern freeway except it’s not quite finished. Instead, only one side is open and it’s on the honor system to be one lane in each direction. Again, we run into the problem of 25 kilometer per hour drivers on a 90 kph road.  One truck had over 50 vehicles behind him but, despite an abundance of space to pull over, he obliviously soldiered on.

We find the zoo, called the Adventure Park, and pull into the empty parking lot. A lady greets us at the entrance, offers us a cool drink, and wants to explain their “packages,” the cheapest being a basic zoo entrance fee of $100 per person.

That explains the empty parking lot which is empty once more as we hightail it out of there.

For today, we figure we’ll have more fun back at the Riu pool on the beach and spend the rest of the afternoon there.


Dinner will be at Papagayo, the steakhouse on the beach where Tim has this great looking burger…


…and Letty and I have steak, hers with the surf ‘n turf option.

It’s fine and delicious but down on the beach, the mosquitos know where dinner is also. Luckily, we put repellent on before dinner. Not many of our fellow diners were such forward thinkers, unfortunately.

Tomorrow, we have grander plans but until then, it’s chill in the room while listening to the floor show below and resting up for a very long drive and a big adventure.

Darryl
Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

These Meals Are Golden: Dining Along the Gold Line (More Adventures Close to Home)


It's another beautiful Saturday in Southern California. The sun is shining, the air is clear, and we've got nothing to do so let's go out to dinner. Except, traffic is clogged throughout the region as usual.

Luckily, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority...better known as Metro, these days...has been busy building a network of light rail lines and subways throughout the region where we can simply hop on board one of their trains and light out to our destination. We're also lucky that one of those stations is less than a mile from our house.



Today, we hop on the Gold Line for a short hop to the Memorial Park Station in the heart of Old Pasadena. From here, it's a quick walk through Big Bang Theory Alley (yes, really) to Union Street, then one short block west to Harlowe's French Dip.



This is a new restaurant in Pasadena that pays homage to the sandwich created a few stops farther south on the Gold Line at Philippe's.



It's a small place but lined with warm woods on the brick walls, it's homey and comfortable. A table near the entrance is accommodating to Tim's wheelchair.



We arrive during happy hour so we get some cheap beers and a glass of wine for Letty.  Tim and I are big French dip fans so we get their signature beef sandwich.



My wife gets a fig marmalade burger.



It all goes good with the Texas toast appetizer ($2 during happy hour)...



...and the donut holes with caramel dipping sauce for dessert.



Yes, it's all very nice, delicious, and stress-free since we didn't have to drive. We are loving this new train style, even when we have to deal with some of the 'public' in public transit. It still beats hassling with all the bad drivers and traffic on the roads.



And, since I'm not driving, I don't have to worry about that food and beer making me fall asleep from all that gentle rocking.

Here are our favorite places to eat along the Gold Line, which runs from East Los Angeles to the Glendora city limits in the San Gabriel Valley:

INDIANA STATION - EAST L.A.



If you've watched our Gold Line Pub Crawl, you'll see this spot near the Indiana Station where we fortify ourselves for all the drinking that is to come. It's Tamales Lilianas.



From a plate of chicharones and eggs to their namesake tamales, it's all good and very authentic here in the heart of East L.A. Just a short, one block walk from the station at 3448 E. 1st Street.

UNION STATION - DOWNTOWN L.A.

While there's a food court, a nice sit down restaurant, and and even nicer restaurant coming soon to the station's former Harvey House, we like to cross Alameda Street to go for taquitos at Olvera Street.



This touristy little alley, supposedly evoking Los Angeles' Mexican past, has many places you can go for overpriced, bland food but there is still a jewel here and there. Cielito Lindo, at the north entrance is known as the originator of the taquito...little rolled tacos, filled with meat, deep fried, and covered with a guacamole sauce.



It's a great cheap eat for only $3 for two. An even better deal is located near the other end of Olvera Street. Cielito Lindo may have invented the taquito but La Noche Buena perfected it.



Here, the taquitos are several notches above the original in taste and you'll get them even cheaper...$2.50 for two.



Afterward, you can get some of the best churros in L.A. in the hallway behind El Paseo restaurant at Mr. Churro.

CHINATOWN STATION



Speaking of French dip sandwiches, Philippe's...a block south of the Chinatown station...invented them. Sure, there's a counterclaim by another downtown restaurant (Cole's) but we'll go with the Philippe's story. Not to mention, they're better here.

Any good Angeleno will know Philippe's...we've been coming here as long as we can remember for those delicious sandwiches made on the spot by the carver at the counter right in front of you. The restaurant has been here well over a century and it shows, too, with the sawdust on the floor, long communal tables, old wooden phone booths, and a newsstand in the corner.

The sandwiches, though, are the star. Although there is a very extensive menu, 99% of the customers order a sandwich. Beef, lamb, turkey, ham, pork, and the recent addition of pastrami are your choices of meat.  The efficient ladies at the counter will slice the meat, dip the bread in the au jus, and plate the sandwich in less time than it took me to type that sentence.



My favorite? A beef dip (as the carver to double dip it), with jack cheese. A vast array of side dishes are available from pig's feet to pickled eggs. Me, I just like to get a slice of their delicious cheesecake. Don't forget to dab a little of their own hot mustard from the jar on the table. It'll clear your sinuses along with bringing out the flavor of that delicious sandwich.



From the station, you can also walk through the adjacent Blossom apartment complex to Broadway. Across the street, we'll sometimes stop for the delicious desserts at the Phoenix Bakery.  It's just a kid compared to Philippe's...only around 80 years old, not the 100+ that Philippe's is.

HIGHLAND PARK STATION



If you come here on Tuesday afternoon, there's a spiffy little farmer's market at the station but we come here for something else. Walk east about a block to Figueroa Street, look south for the old Highland Theater. Just beyond that is the Greyhound Bar and Grill.

While there's a lot of good drinking and snacking going on here, we come mainly for one thing...shrimp and grits.

Southern themed restaurants come and go in this town...Frank and Joe's, Cajun Way, Spoonful...but the cuisine hasn't really reached critical mass yet. My wife particularly laments the lack of a good place for shrimp and grits.



I was very pleased to find this place that not only serves them but serves a version that she claims is "fantastic." I'm not such a shrimp and grits fan so I can't really describe it for you but can tell you that you want to come after 4pm...that's when they start serving it.

SOUTH PASADENA STATION



This station is smack dab in the middle of downtown South Pasadena where there more than a few good places to eat and drink. We like to go right behind the station to Nicole's Market, a small market and cafe that specializes in French food.



While browsing for some great soft cheese to take home with a couple of baguettes, we'll also have a nice light lunch here from one of their sandwiches, pastas, soups and more...along with a cold craft beer or a great glass of French wine.

It's on the quiet side of the station at 921 Meridian Avenue.

FILLMORE STATION - PASADENA



This is one of our favorites, despite the few addicts and homeless you have to wade through when exiting the station. Letty and Tim will leave from their end of the line, I'll leave my office at the other end in downtown Los Angeles, and we'll meet in the middle here. From the platform, it's only about 100 yards to Pitfire Pizza where we can nosh on $5 pizzas and cheap beer during their happy hour which starts at 3pm on weekdays.



This isn't just any pizza, either. Pitfire was doing artisanal pizzas long before it was popular.  Hand stretched dough, housemade sauce using fresh ingredients, and delicious buffalo mozzarella baked in a hot, wood-fired oven, make for some very tasty pies.



Since it's only setting us back some pocket change, we can even have another one or opt for their soft-serve topped cookies for dessert.

A very delicious way to commute home.  

DEL MAR STATION - PASADENA

The station here cuts through a slice of apartment buildings built so that residents could have easy access to the train. On the west platform, you can see the restored station that served the city back in the glory days of passenger train travel.

Inside that station is an upscale restaurant called Le Grande Orange that we have yet to try. At the end of the build is another one we need to try called the Luggage Room, which is basically a pizzeria.



Where we have gone are the two restaurants across the street, Houstons and Congregation Ale House.



Houstons is a moderately expensive steakhouse and chop chain. It is very nice and the food has always done well by us. There's also a sushi bar here and no corkage fee if you bring your own wine.



Congregation Ale House is part of a small chain owned by our friend Travis Ensling. It was his dream to create this sort of 'Catholic High School Girls in Trouble' themed restaurant and bar (you'll understand when you go...Travis is a pretty creative thinker).



Specializing in craft beer and extremely well made pub grub, you'll find their burgers, gourmet sausage sandwiches, flatbreads, and more to be very delicious. They've also expanded to brew some of their own beers. The theme and atmosphere make this a very fun place to stop along the way.

Houstons is on the corner of Del Mar and Arroyo Parkway just east of the station and Congregation Ale House is on the corner of Del Mar and Raymond Avenue on the west side.

MEMORIAL PARK - PASADENA

This is the station for Old Pasadena, a very popular place for people to visit with dozens of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, theaters...you name it. It's a horrible place to drive to and try to find a cheap place to park. The Gold Line is the perfect way to visit this very entertaining neighborhood.


See up above for our dinner at Harlowe's.

We'll skip ahead...while there are many restaurants along the corridor at the Lake, Allen, and Sierra Madre Villa stations, nothing is really a standout among them. At least we haven't found them yet.

ARCADIA STATION 





We usually come here to drink and buy tacos on the Taco Tuesday all day happy hour at Mt. Lowe Brewery but you can read and see more about that in our pub crawl posts.



Otherwise, you're on the edge of the Asian dining empire of the San Gabriel Valley here, which is justifiably world famous. A walk south of the station will take you to a favorite of ours here, Hot 'n Sweet Chicken. It's a standout serving authentic KFC...no, not that. In this case it stand for Korean Fried Chicken and, wow, is it good.



You can get wings or drumsticks fried to an incredible degree so that the skin is super-crispy, yet the inside is tender and moist. Glazed with a sweet sauce that comes in a variety of spiciness from mild to melt your tongue, it's an outstanding meal.

There's also a selection of Italian style pastas and Korean dishes but I'm here for the chicken.

AZUSA DOWNTOWN STATION

Our dining tour ends here. I know there's one more stop on the line...plus we've skipped over Monrovia, Duarte and Irwindale...but there's really not much there outside of college cafeterias and snack bars.

In the line's penultimate stop, there's plenty, though. Another Congregation Ale House is here (this one is also the chain's brewery), City Cafe is a bit of sophisticated dining that runs its air conditioning a bit too high, Bambino's Pizza is good for take out but California Grill Express has let us down.



Where we end up here is the delicious Mexican food and margaritas offered by our friend Max Arteaga at his eponymously named Max's Mexican Cuisine.  Why not? (you might get that reference if you've ever been there)



Along with the menudo (available every day here), albondigas, enchilladas, tacos, burritos, and more, Max's has a variety of some of the more spicy salsas you'll get in a sit-down, mainstream Mexican restaurant like this...starting with the hot pico de gallo with your chips and moving on to the other red and green salsas that you'll have to ask them to bring from the kitchen.



While Max has another location in Monrovia and another on the way in San Dimas, we like the ambiance, attitude, and food of this original spot in Azusa the best.

OK, that's making me hungry so I better stop for a bite. Be sure to jump on the train next time you're in downtown L.A. or the eastside to get some of this great food.

And if you want to catch up on our Gold Line pub crawls, use the links below:

Gold Line Pub Crawl 1.0

Gold Line Pub Crawl 2.0